Fraudsters recruit computer kids for crime

Organised criminals could enlist young computer enthusiasts to carry out online fraud

Organised crime syndicates are increasingly targeting budding computer crackers to carry out fraud, warned the assistant director of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Cyber Crime Unit, Thursday.

The new ICC unit is designed to combat what is seen as a growing threat to financial institutions. Assistant director John Merrett says that organised criminals are looking towards computers and the Internet to carry out credit card and banking fraud and that recruiting young people with an in depth knowledge of computers and computer security is a natural next step. He suggested crackers may even be targeted at conventions and other meetings.

"This is the most organised area of crime," said Merrett. "There is a danger of [crackers] being recruited. Especially if they are young and want to make some money." Merrett added that computer crackers who carry out fraud on someone else's behalf risk bearing the brunt of punishment for illegal activity. "They're the fall guy. The people orchestrating fraud are usually well hidden."

Disgruntled employees may also, says Merrett, enlist help from outsiders in order to defraud a company. "A disillusioned employee is always a very dangerous animal."

Although more retailers are admitting to being a victim of computer crime, Merrett says that banks are still the most attractive targets. "Banks are technology-based companies, and people are trying to poke holes in that technology," he says.

Internet fraud is the fastest growing area of computerised crime, he said, with credit card falsification and online trading fraud the worst areas.

A recent survey from business information company Experian estimates that in certain retail sectors, such as software and ticket sales, fraudulent transactions can account for as much as 40 percent of all Internet sales. The problem is compounded, according to the study, because it is impractical to report and trace all fraudulent transactions and because the police lack the required expertise and resources to combat such crime.

The authors of the report speculate that the Internet has become a haven for petty fraudsters, but Merrett says to his knowledge even petty Internet fraud is usually well organised.

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